The federal regulators approved a private company's plans to store tens of thousands of tons of high radioactive nuclear waste in west Texas oil fields, the latest development in a decades-long saga of where to store the nation s burned fuel from commercial nuclear power plants.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a license to Orano CIS LLC and its joint venture partner, Waste Control Specialists LLC, to establish a collection of radioactive waste at oil fields in the heart of Texas Permian Basin for as many as 40,000 metric tons.
The joint venture, known as Interim Storage Partners LLC, plans to have waste gathered by rail from around the country and sealed in concrete casks where it would be stored above ground at a site about 30 miles from Andrews, Texas, near New Mexico border.
The project faces stiff opposition from the local community, the state and oil companies that fear a leak could taint a region which produces millions of barrels of oil a day. The waste that can remain radioactive for thousands of years can be radioactive again.
The Andrews County Commissioners Court, which functions as the county board of commissioners, had previously back the plan as a method of diversifying the area's fortunes from the boom and bust of oil cycles. On earlier this year, it reversed course and voted unanimously to oppose the project.
And Texas s Republican governor Greg Abbott signed into law legislation last week to attempt to block the project from moving forward.
We oppose this project at every level, said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy Economic Development Coalition, an Austin, Texas environmental group fighting about this project. We will continue to battle these dangerous plans. The fight comes amid a political logjam that has left tons of waste on site at several dozen power plants and other sites across the country.
In 1987, Congress called a ridge in the Nevada desert about 90 miles north of Las Vegas to be the nation's repository. However decades of political opposition led by retired Nevada Democrat and Nevada Democrat Harry Reid prevented the project from moving forward. In 2010, President Biden adopted the plan and the Obama administration opposes its use as well.
Instead, the administration plans to work with Congress and states to reach consensus on storing nuclear waste, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told Congress earlier this year.
A similar nuclear waste storage project, proposed in New Mexico by Holtec International Corp., is also awaiting approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.